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April 22, 2013

Terror plot may have had local target

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

Last fall, the Obama administration offered up to $12 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of two al-Qaida leaders based in Iran. The U.S. State Department described them as key facilitators in sending extremists to Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department also announced financial penalties against one of the men.

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said the terrorist network was not operating in Iran.

"Iran's position against this group is very clear and well known. (Al-Qaida) has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran's territory," Miryousefi said in a statement emailed to the AP late Monday. "We reject strongly and categorically any connection to this story."

The investigation surrounding the planned attack was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The attack "was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent," RCMP chief superintendent Jennifer Strachan said Monday. "We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack. They watched trains and railways."

Strachan said they were targeting a route, but did not say whether it was a cross border route. Best said the duo had been under investigation since last fall. Their bail hearing was scheduled in Toronto on Tuesday.

Via Rail said that "at no time" were passengers or members of the public in imminent danger. Via trains — Canada's equivalent of Amtrak passenger trains in the U.S. — carry nearly four million passengers annually.

In Washington, Amtrak president Joe Boardman said the Amtrak Police Department would continue to work with Canadian authorities to assist in the investigation. Via Rail and Amtrak jointly operate trains between Canada and the U.S.

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